Seven days after being brutally attacked in jail, Indian prisoner on death row Sarabjit Singh died at 1 am on Thursday in Lahore’s Jinnah hospital, triggering massive outrage across India.
While Pakistan put his life through hell when alive, a similar mindset was at work even after Sarabjit died. At the airport, Pakistani authorities, till the last minute, haggled over paperwork, delaying the takeoff of the flight bringing his body back to India.
While Sarabjit’s medical condition had been deteriorating ever since the attack on April 26, the Pakistan foreign office gave cardiac arrest as the official reason for his demise. Strangely, it also described the attack on Sarabjit as merely a “scuffle with fellow inmates”. Ironically, death struck just as India had asked Pakistan to airlift him to a third country for better medical treatment, which Islamabad had not rejected outright. The news of his death was received with shock and anger, more so as Sarabjit’s family eagerly awaited some mercy from Islamabad so he could get better medical attention. Instead, they were delivered with news of his death.
The nation’s outrage was reflected in a resolution passed in Parliament condemning the “inhuman treatment” meted out to him in the Pakistan jail by fellow inmates. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh belatedly acknowledged Sarabjit as a “brave son of India”, cutting across party lines Members of Parliament called Sarabjit’s death a “brutal murder”.
The official statement of the Ministry of External Affairs described Sarabjit’s death in starker terms: “This was, put simply, the killing of our citizen while in the custody of Pakistan jail authorities.”